Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – North Carolina

Considering December 1863, one year after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, US Colored Troops had become an important, if not essential, component of the Federal war machine. We historians say they’d proven their mettle at places such as Morris Island. However, questions remained in the minds of the more traditional line officers. But none could deny the ever growing number of USCT regiments and batteries joining the force.

Thus it is no surprise to see colored troops artillery units appear in the summaries. We’ve discussed a few along the way, in particular those from Louisiana and Mississippi. Initially, these formations carried designations referencing the states in which their muster took place. And these received a suffix descriptor of “A.D.” for “African Descent” in order to set them apart in the order of battle from unionist regiments recruited in the same areas. Eventually, all would receive designations within the USCT regimental system. But for the mid-war period, this presents a tricky “administrative” problem for those of us researching to find the stories from those USCT units. Just making a positive identification of a unit is often difficult.

And in many cases, clearly even the clerks during the Civil War were a bit confused. When reviewing a wartime reference to a USCT unit, one must often “beat the bushes” in order to get it right. A good example of this is from our next summary statement entry:

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  • Company L, 1st Artillery, A.D.: At Newport Barracks, North Carolina, with one 12-pdr Mountain Howitzer, on a return received on October 13, 1864.

Newport Barracks was a Federal outpost between Morehead City and New Bern, North Carolina. Protecting the valuable supply line inland, the post was important for maintaining the Federal hold on the eastern part of the state. And of course, into 1865 that supply line became Sherman’s resupply point. That said, Newport Barracks was not simply your run-of-the-mill remote outpost. There are markers around the location of the barracks and fortifications.

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A nearby Civil War Trails marker highlights a February 2 action in which the Confederates, in conjunction with a larger attempt at New Bern, overran the Federal garrison posted to Newport Barracks. After which, the Federals reestablished the base, with even more security.

It’s the unit identification which becomes problematic here. There was a 1st North Carolina Colored Heavy Artillery (NCCHA) Regiment. We might start the story of this regiment in February 1864 related to the attempt on New Bern which was associated with the Newport Barracks action mentioned. In the crisis, the commander at New Bern armed civilians, including some free blacks, as the garrison braced against a Confederate attack. After the emergency, eyes turned to the contraband camps as a source for recruits. Major Thorndike C. Jameson received authorization to recruit a regiment of heavy artillery from the freedmen.

Jameson was an ardent abolitionist and pastor from Massachusetts. He’d initially volunteered as a chaplain in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. Opting for a more active role, he secured a commission and was later appointed major in the 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, then stationed at New Bern. With William Lloyd Garrison among his friends, Jameson had secured quick support for a plan to raise a colored heavy artillery regiment. The 1st NCCHA mustered in March 1864. However, all was not that simple. The recruiting process was flawed to say the least. I would recommend “Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era” by Richard M. Reid for a detailed examination.

Specific to our discussion, the 1st NCCHA was not up to full strength even into the fall (for that October reporting date). The regiment remained at New Bern, mostly performing fatigue details. During a Yellow Fever outbreak, the 1st NCCHA was assigned to provost guard duties. Only after suffering through the summer under the pandemic was the regiment assigned to actual “artillery” duties. In January 1865, the regiment transferred from the Sub-District of New Bern to the Sub-District of Beaufort. As such, they were assigned to defend the bases of Morehead City and Beaufort.

While Newport Barracks was part of that command, sources are not clear in regard to the 1st NCCHA being assigned there. Furthermore, we have date issues here. The heavy regiment was not in existence at the end of December 1863. And if we postulate this was a “post dated” report sent in October 1864, we still cannot reconcile that with the 1st NCCHA’s service at New Bern. And by the way, the regiment became the 14th US Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment in March 1865.

So if it wasn’t the 1st NCCHA, then who? There was another colored “1st” regiment from North Carolina – the 1st North Carolina Infantry, African Descent. The regiment later became the 35th US Colored Troops. Formed in June 1863 around New Bern and Plymouth, this regiment was part of Wild’s Brigade and served in South Carolina during the Morris Island Campaign. They spent the rest of the war in the Department of the South. However a detachment of the regiment was left behind at New Bern and saw quite a bit of service. They would be a candidate for this entry line, except for again the location. The 1st NC Colored Infantry detachment does not appear to have served at Newport Barracks. Nor do we find any connection for the unit to any mountain howitzers.

But there’s one more “1st” from North Carolina to consider. The 1st North Carolina Volunteers, or what we today call the 1st North Carolina (Union) Infantry, must also be considered. Authorized in May 1862, Colonel Joseph M. McChesney commanded the regiment. The regiment formed within Federal lines in North Carolina, with volunteers reflecting the complicated experience in the coastal region. Some men were union men to the core. Others were fence-sitters motivated by personal gain or simply looking for a measure of security. And some of the ranks were deserters from Confederate service. As such, there were misgivings within echelons of the Federal command about this regiment. Early on, the regiment provided guards for outposts and garrisons, with some companies detached from the main body. However, a few companies from the regiment earned a reputation for efficiency and good order when assigned to patrols.

From formation through the end of 1863, most of the command was assigned to the Sub-District of the Pamlico, with the Washington, North Carolina, garrison. But later in 1864 the regiment transferred to Beaufort and was assigned to outposts which included Newport Barracks. In fact, Company L of the 1st North Carolina was assigned to Newport Barracks in October 1864. Captain George W. Graham commanded the company. And there is some indication of a howitzer section, at least temporarily, assigned and managed by Lieutenant W.W. Alexander of the company.

The “clincher” in this case, I believe, is to fast forward to the next quarter… which I hate to do here. For the 1st quarter of 1864, we find this line under North Carolina:

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Company L, 1st Volunteer Infantry…. that has to be Captain Graham’s. Same location with the same mountain howitzer. We are left to conjecture about the clerk’s entry indicating “artillery” and “A.D.” At a minimum, at least they provided some justification for this lengthy blog post!

All that established, there was ammunition for the mountain howitzer:

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  • Company L, 1st North Carolina Infantry: 26 shells and 142 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

And more on the next page:

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  • Company L, 1st North Carolina Infantry: 31 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

There are no other entries for this line on the pages that follow. And we know that is typical for “sectional” artillery assigned to infantry formations.

Concluding this post, I hope the readers recognize my “blogger’s indulgence” with a rather lengthy post going down different “rabbit holes” to demonstrate what I’d consider the likely explanation for the entry line. But the explanation allowed me to demonstrate what I figure as the proper approach to interpreting the entry line and significance. This also allowed me to discuss, at least within a few brief paragraphs, the service of two North Carolina units which may be unfamiliar to readers. The 1st NCCHA and the 1st North Carolina Volunteers had very different service stories in some regards. Yet, given the postings and duties, perhaps similar wartime experiences in the same operational area. I submit once the clerks committed to writing that “A.D.” on the line, we here in the 21st century had to discuss both units.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Rhode Island’s Light Batteries

Despite being a small state, Rhode Island offered significant contributions to the Federal war effort during the Civil War.  In terms of artillery, the state provided a regiment of light batteries, three heavy artillery regiments, and a few non-regimented batteries.  The latter were mustered by mid-1862 and thus fall outside the scope of our review of the Ordnance Department’s summaries.  Of the heavy regiments, one battery was outfitted as a light battery.  And that battery – Company C, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery – served in South Carolina and will be familiar to readers.   Given those particulars, we have nine batteries to consider for the fourth quarter, 1862 summaries:

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From the top, we start with the eight batteries of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery.  All but these of these were serving in the Army of the Potomac at the time:

  • Battery A: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain William A. Arnold commanded this battery supporting Second Division, Second Corps.
  • Battery B: No return. Battery was also assigned to Second Division, Second Corps.  It was under the charge of Captain  John G. Hazard. This storied battery had six 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery C: No return.  Assigned to First Division, Fifth Corps, Captain Richard Waterman commanded this battery.  They had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles on hand during the battle of Fredericksburg.
  • Battery D: At Newport News, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  The battery was actually at Falmouth at the end of 1862.  Newport News is the location of the battery in March 1863, when the return was received in Washington.  Captain  William W. Buckley commanded this battery assigned to Second Division, Ninth Corps.
  • Battery E: At Falmouth with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain Pardon S. Jastram’s battery supported First Division, Third Corps.
  • Battery F: At New Berne, North Carolina with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain James Belger commanded this battery, which was assigned to the newly-formed Eighteenth Corps at the time.
  • Battery G: No return. Charles Owen’s battery was part of Third Division, Second Corps, then at Falmouth.  However, Lieutenant Crawford Allen is listed as the commander at the end of the year.The battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at Fredericksburg, firing 230 rounds.  More on those later.
  • Battery H: At Fairfax Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Assigned to Casey’s Division from the Defenses of Washington.  Captain Jeffrey Hazard commanded this battery.

Several spaces below is the lone entry for the Third Artillery’s Company C.  Referring back to Denison’s history of the regiment, he records for February 23, 1863 (as close a point I can find relative to the end of 1862):

The position of the regiment at this time were as follows: The head-quarters, with eight companies, within the entrenchments on Hilton Head, two of which were in Fort Welles; two companies – one heavy (A) and one light (C) – at Beaufort, A in Battery Stevens; one company (L) in the fort at Bay Point; one company (G) in Fort Pulaski.

This was, of course, well before the operations of 1863 on Morris Island and other points outside Charleston which would involve the 3rd Rhode Island.  But we see specifically that Company C was organized as light artillery.  For them we see:

  • Company C: At Hilton Head, South Carolina with two 24-pdr field howitzers and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  I think Captain Charles R. Brayton was in command of the company at this time.

The company was, of course, assigned to the Tenth Corps (a relatively new designation at the time).  And we know them to be actually act Beaufort, thanks to Denison’s account.  While we can take the battery’s reported armament as accurate, keep in mind the battery’s assigned weapons, as did all in the Department of the South, varied.  Furthermore, some of the other batteries in the 3rd Rhode Island would operate field weapons later in 1863.  Also keep in mind the batteries in the theater would man some interesting “weapons”… to say the least:

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Moving forward to the ammunition columns, allow me to refer to that heavy company as “Company C”, to differentiate from the light batteries.  There was no report from Battery C, so we have some room to avoid redundancy.

For smoothbore ammunition:

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We have three batteries reporting quantities:

  • Battery E:  288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery F: 120 shell, 151 case, and 18 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company C:  175 shell, 90 case, and 80 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers.

So we don’t have quantities for batteries B and D which we know had Napoleons on hand.

For rifled projectiles, starting with Hotchkiss patents:

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Only one line to work with here:

  • Battery A:  110 percussion shell, 450 fuse shell, and 434 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Moving over to the next page, consider the Dyer’s and Parrott’s patent projectiles:

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From the Dyer’s columns only one battery reported quantities:

  • Battery H:  720 shrapnel for 3-inch rifle.

In terms of Parrott projectiles:

  • Battery F: 175 shell, 75 case, and 54 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Company C: 240 shell, 189 case, and 60 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

Lastly, we turn to the Schenkl projectiles:

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Just one to consider:

  • Battery H:  360 shell and 120 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Before we move on to the small arms, consider what we are missing here.  Batteries C and G, with 3-inch rifles, did not have a filed return.  But let’s not allow them to remain silent due to that administrative issue.  Both commanders filed reports from the Battle of Fredericksburg, and both offered comments on their guns and ammunition.  Captain Owen, of Battery G, wrote:

During the five days, I expended about 230 rounds of ammunition.  The Hotchkiss shell and case shot is the only variety upon which I can rely.  The Dyer ammunition generally misses the groove, and the Hotchkiss percussion bursts in the piece.

Captain Waterman, of Battery C, went further in his report to discuss the guns and packing material:

It may be proper to state that, from the experience of the last nine days, as well as from ten months’ active service with the 3-inch gun, I consider it inferior at ranges of from 900 to 1,500 yards to the 10-pdr Parrott gun.

The Schenkl percussion and the Hotchkiss fuse shells worked to entire satisfaction.

The ordnance ammunition with metallic packing failed in almost every instance to ignite the fuse, and I consider it worthless when explosion constitutes the chief value of the projectile.  As solid shot, the ordnance shrapnel was serviceable in the cannonade of Fredericksburg.

A couple of opinions to weigh on the scales.

On to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery A: Twenty-four Army revolvers and thirty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Twelve Navy revolvers and eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Fourteen Navy revolvers.
  • Battery F: 104 Navy revolvers and nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Twenty Army revolvers and twenty horse artillery sabers.
  • Company C: Fifty Navy revolvers, 120 cavalry sabers, and one horse artillery saber.

The pattern seen here was for batteries operating in the side theaters to have more small arms.  Given the service of both and detailed duties, that follows logically.